Context. My story, like yours, is an embedded story. Whether it is the story of our species, culture, or family, the pattern is the same. We travel from the Known to Unknown. The Monomyth provides a roadmap of this journey on which we all have embarked.
Family Story. My Family Story is based on the Monomyth above, which was captured in the dreams of my parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents--mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, farmers, homemakers, workers, gardeners, artisans, entrepreneurs, educators, and journalists--all of whom were seekers who emigrated from Denmark and Sicily to the United States at the turn of the twentieth century. What they sought was freedom from crime, despotism, and religious bigotry and the freedom to learn how to survive and thrive in a new setting, in all ways possible, as a family, as individuals, and as members of the Great American Experiment. As is common to all immigrants, they worked hard, lived simply, and stayed together through thick and thin, through all the challenges that immigrants always face--sadness, depression, hunger, poverty, anonymity, lack of opportunity, disease, war, communal strife, unemployment, a new language, a new culture, bigotry of all kinds, and uncertainty--endless uncertainty. My parents and grandparents gave me the basic virtues that are the foundation of a good life--respect, self-control, manual labor, hard work, frugality, joy in the ordinary, love of God, and a thirst for education and spiritual freedom. Though each of the Danish and Sicilian branches of my family has many stories and sayings that summarize their successful odyssey over the ocean of troubles, my father's phrase, Dove majore che, minore cessa--Where a greater exits, a lesser ceases--represents the garland of wisdom that I inherited, shaped as it was by Christian, Muslim, Sephardic Jewish, and Masonic traditions.
My Story. I was raised on a wooded, hillside farm in the Finger Lakes Region of New York State by my father, mother, and grandmother, along with my brother and sister.
I participated in high school athletics and studied piano, trombone, and classical music at the Eastman School of Music from 1953 to 1959. Following my parents' advice to learn how to do hard manual labor cheerfully, I worked on farms, road crews, and construction crews during my summer months of college--tough experiences that I would not trade for the world, and one of the many gifts my parents gave me.
I entered college as a pre-medical student and followed a pre-medical curriculum for three years before changing my focus to Anthropology, Philosophy, History, and Classics, subjects that I found more intriguing. I earned an A.B. in History from Hamilton College in 1963. My spiritual mentor during my college years was Reverend Colin Miller, Chaplin of Hamilton College, a scholar of Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and Italian, a teacher of Dante and Robert Burns, his favorite poet, and a wonderful, powerful man who had a huge, imposing aura that would frighten even a hobgoblin out of its mind--not to speak of sleeping students in his classes!
I moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts for graduate study in World Religion, Church History, Theology, and Ethics at Harvard Divinity School and earned an S.T.B. degree in 1966--the oldest academic degree in the country, dating from 1636. My spiritual mentor was Paul Tillich, absent from the college but ever-present in my devoted study of his ground-breaking work in apologetics and world religion. After my graduation, I taught Freshman English at Stoneham High School in Massachusetts for a year. I knew after my first day of teaching that I had found my career.
I then traveled to the Midwest to deepen my understanding of English literature at the University of Minnesota, where I became a Teaching Assistant in the World Humanities Department for several years (1968-1974). I earned a Ph. D. in English literature in 1974. My spiritual mentor at this time was Reverend Hancock, Dean of St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral.
I began my study of Yoga, I Ching, and the Golden Ratio in 1972, while I was a graduate student at the University of Minnesota—subjects that I continue to study and utilize to this day.
I have traveled widely. I was a canoe guide in Algonquin Park, Ontario, Canada, at Camp Pathfinder in 1959. I traveled and stayed in Youth Hostels on a three-month hitch-hiking tour of England, Wales, Scotland, France, Italy, and Greece during the summer of 1963. Later I traveled and taught in India and Taiwan in the Fall of 1978 and then lived and taught in Japan from 1979 to 1981.
I was appointed as the North American Director of Meditation Teachers for Ananda Marga, an international Yoga organization, from 1974 to 1978. While in Colorado, I studied Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture at the East-West Institute. I also learned a great deal from meetings and discussions with Zen Master Paul Reps, author of Zen Flesh, Zen Bones. I continued and deepened these discussions with Sufi Master Rashad Field, author of The Last Barrier. When in India, I received the personal dharsan of Tantric master Shrii Shrii Anandamurti for four months, from October 1978 to January 1979. This was the highlight of my life and career.
Besides teaching Yoga and Meditation all of my adult life in colleges, churches, and prisons, I have taught Eastern and Western Humanities, International Fiction, Yoga and Ayurveda, Tai Chi and Ancient Chinese Culture, the Foundations of Education, and English Composition at the Foreign Language Service in Japan (1979-81), Finger Lakes Community College (1981-83), Corning Community College (1984-91), SUNY Geneseo (1994-2002), and SUNY Brockport (2002-2015).
I have also studied Tai Chi, Chi Kung, Pau Kua, and Kung Fu (1996-2008). I teach Tai Chi and Chi Kung privately.
My wife is Jane Morse, Professor of Education at SUNY Geneseo. We live in Geneseo. I co-manage our family farm with my brother in Springwater, NY. I remain balanced through regular Yoga and Meditation practice, Chi Kung, Tai Chi, Pau Kua, and Classical Chinese Five Element Acupuncture, introduced to me by Ms. Diane Macchiavelli, a devoted student of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Master of the Gelug lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. The Dalai Lama's words, directed to western people, re-state the essence of our Human Story, my Family Story, and my Individual Story:
NEVER GIVE UP
No matter what is going on
Never give up
Develop the heart
Too much energy in your country
Is spent developing the mind
Instead of the heart
Develop the heart
Not just to your friends
But to everyone
Work for peace
In your heart and in the world
Work for peace
And I say again
Never give up
No matter what is happening
No matter what is going on around you
Never give up
Photo of Lars attending a teaching on White Tara by Lama Namdrol Rinpoche (October 2015)